Courage of the Mexican Revolution: Adela Velarde Pérez, "La Adelita"
*First shared on March 1, 2021
Earlier this year, my sister and I spoke about bringing to life a campaign that honored women. We centered women like our mother, our tias, our abuelas and the many women like them who have come before us and paved the way. We knew that we wanted to highlight women who have all been presented with many challenges but through it all had remained resilient.
When it came down to putting together a campaign, we decided to recreate images of resilient women and to shared their stories. As you read through the stories of the resilient women we selected, we hope that they inspire you and serve as a mirror and reminder of the strength you possess. Feel free to share these stories and support our shop, Cadena Collective. We are able to do this work because of your continued support. THANK YOU!
ADELA VELARDE PÉREZ
You may be familiar with the famous “Adelitas”, they are known as the women who fought alongside men in the Mexican Revolution. But did you know there is a woman behind the nickname? Her name was Adela Velarde Pérez born on September 8, 1900 in Chihuahua, México. She was said to be friendly, bold, brave, and smart. At just 13 years old, she became part of “La Cruz Blanca” where she learned medical skills against her father’s wishes. Even without the support of her father she ignored his oppositions and left to pursue her desire to become a nurse. When she turned 15 years-old she joined the military and became a nurse on the front lines. There, alongside other women her responsibility was to care for those wounded in action and to engage in combat when the men needed help. These women were known as the “soldaderas”. As her story came to light, the women previously referred to as “soldaderas” would go on to be nicknamed “Adelitas”.
Throughout her service during the Mexican Revolution, she had the attention of the soldiers but she repeatedly turned down their advances and focused on the mission at hand. It wasn’t until years later that she developed a relationship with Antonio Gil whom she’d have a child with. Unfortunately, she lost her boyfriend during a battle of the Mexican Revolution, and their child died during combat in World War II. Even after suffering these tragic losses she remained strong and resilient, she would go on to fight battles in Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Morelos, and Mexico City. Though her contributions to the Mexican Revolution were great in number, her story was forgotten about and her legacy lost in time. After the revolution she moved to Mexico City where she worked a typist.
Twenty years after the revolution Adela was recognized as a veteran, but it wasn’t until sixty years after the revolution that she would formally receive recognition and a pension for her service. At age 65, she met and married Coronel Alfredo Villegas whom she’d share the rest of her days with. Adela Velarde Pérez died in 1971 and was laid to rest in San Felipe Cemetery in Del Rio, Texas.
Long after the revolution, “Adelitas” were depicted as hyper-sexualized versions of the women who fought in the revolution. After the conflict these veterans returned home to fulfill societal norms, and their stories and contributions slowly forgotten. The colorful posters we see of beautiful women with braids and lipstick, gorgeous hair trailing down their arms with a beautiful smile are far from reality. These women gave their blood, sweat, and tears for their country. They were in battlefields alongside men, and holding multiple roles contributing to the cause. They dressed to be ready for anything, from cooking to aiding in the battlefield. Throughout Mexican history women have held key roles in medicine, as teachers, combatants, and leaders during conflicts that have contributed to the construction of the country. The resiliency and fighting spirit of them lives on as the country’s flag flies high.
I almost have tears to my eyes reading this. Adela is my great aunt on my maternal grandmother’s side, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I had the honor of learning about our rich history and her legacy. As her great-grand-niece, thank you so much for honoring her and highlighting her contribution in this way.
I truly appreciate and love this historical story of our brave ancestors who set the path before us to be who we are meant to be; strong individuals with firm beliefs and an even stronger will to fight for what we believe in and stand for ……let’s not forget our brave and ancesters of our past….for our better future…..thank you!!!!